Sunday 24 July 2011

Movie Review: Captain America: The First Avenger

Right off the bat let me tell everybody who jumped out of their seat as soon as the credits started rolling and left the theatre. You missed it! At the end of the credits there was a preview of next year's Avengers movie. Fools! Have you not yet learned that Marvel movies seem to have gotten into the habit of doing this? Heck, the credits aren't that long. Are we in that big of a hurry?

Yes, this is just another in a line of summer blockbusters vying to make us part with our hard-earned entertainment dollars but if I compare it with the money making juggernaut of the latest entry in Transformers franchise, this story has some meat on its bones. Don't forget that I am a firm believer in the score from Rotten Tomatoes as an accurate indicator of the quality of a film and while Transformers: Dark of the Moon (my review) managed to only qualify for an abysmal 36%; Captain Avenger currently rates a respectable 73%. Anything under 60% is considered bad and I'd say 36% is low enough to be called really bad.

The meat on the bones of this story comes from the origins of Captain America dating back to World War II. A dwarfish nerd is rejected from the draft and can't go fight the evil Nazis like all the other true men. However he ends up part of a secret experiment which instantaneously transforms him into a tall, muscular superhero. As Roger Ebert so humorously pointed out, just about every comic book of the forties and fifties had an advertisement for some training program which showed a weak man having sand kicked in his face at the beach by the bigger bully as the bully steals weak man's girl. That is the story of Captain America.

Using World War II as the film's backdrop is great because nothing embodies pure evil better than the Nazis. Over the years, there have been lots of fictional stories of the Nazis having superweapons, superpowers and gawd knows what else and what better place than this film to show the nemesis of all nemesises, Red Skull, the most evil of all Nazis; heck more evil than Adolf himself.

The backdrop of World War II, the era, the clothes, etc. give a certain overall style to the film which in many cases require special effects. However the use of CGI in this film, in comparison with Transformers, is not the in-your-face pound-you-over-the-head bigger and better explosions. Okay, there are lots of explosions but here it seemed to make sense as part of the story as opposed to just trying to dazzle you. The actor Chris Evans benefited from some quite startling transformations as the first small underweight Steve Rogers to the taller, muscular Captain America. This is so integrated into the movie story I imagine most of us don't think of it as a special effect. It is the type of effect which is truly part of the story as opposed to another explosion or car crash or whatever just tacked on to make us go, "Wow!"

I quite enjoyed myself. Part of the credit goes to the supporting cast who did a marvellous job (Marvel Comics, marvellous job, get it?) of contributing to making this a good film. Tommy Lee Jones as the doubting army commander who recruits Steve Rogers plays gruff with a wonderful touch of humour. Hugo Weaving as Schmidt / Red Skull brings that maniacal wide-eyed villainous look to his character which so reminds me of Agent Smith from The Matrix. You just know that despite his calmness, he's going to turn around and do something really, really bad. Hayley Atwell as the romantic interest has a certain smouldering beauty about her which trades off nicely with her militaristic kick butt demeanour. There's a great scene where as an army officer, she is checking out a group of smartass recruits. She asks one mouthy jerk to step forward then decks him.

Okay, I can't help myself: spoiler alert. I thought this scene was so funny I actually clapped in the theatre. A group of soldiers are required to run I don't know how many miles as part of their training. They arrive at a flag pole and the drill sergeant tells the group this is the halfway point. He then adds that if anybody can get the flag at the top of the flagpole, they can have a ride back to camp in the jeep with Hayley Atwell who is observing the men training. Some of the men try to shimmy up the pole but fail to get anywhere close to the flag. The sergeant yells that he's never seen anybody get the flag in - I think - seventeen years then orders them all to go back running. Our nerdy Steve Rogers walks over to the pole and pulls out two pins at its base which hold the flagpole in an upright position. The pole tips over and falls flat on the ground. Rogers walks over and easily removes the flag from the top of the pole as the drill sergeant and all the other men stare in stunned silence at how he's solved the problem. I'm sorry, that completely cracked me up and I thought it was such a brilliant out of the box solution to getting the flag off the top of the pole, I had to clap. That was an absolutely brilliant scene and was truly funny.

Final Word
This is a good bit of summer blockbuster entertainment. I saw it in 3D and can't really say that the extra dimension added anything to write home to Mom about. I have to chuckle as Roger Ebert who is well known for detesting 3D as a dumb gimmick specifically wrote in his own review to see the movie in 2D. Well, if you do you'll save yourself three bucks.

This is well worth heading out to the theatre. If you'd enjoy a "comic book" superhero action adventure movie, you won't go wrong by taking in this cinematic treat.


Rotten Tomatoes: Captain America: The First Avenger: 73%
With plenty of pulpy action, a pleasantly retro vibe, and a handful of fine performances, Captain America is solidly old-fashioned blockbuster entertainment.

Wikipedia: Captain America: The First Avenger
Captain America: The First Avenger is a 2011 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Captain America.

Wikipedia: Captain America
Captain America is a fictional character, a superhero that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character first appeared in Captain America Comics #1 (March 1941), from Marvel Comics' 1940s predecessor, Timely Comics, and was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Over the years, an estimated 210 million copies of "Captain America" comic books have been sold in a total of 75 countries. For nearly all of the character's publication history, Captain America was the alter ego of Steve Rogers, a sickly young man who was enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum in order to aid the United States war effort. Captain America wears a costume that bears an American flag motif, and is armed with an indestructible shield that can be thrown as a weapon.


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